'Congress has to act': Biden says there's nothing more he can do on his own to address guns

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he's exhausted what he can do through executive action on gun control as he called on Congress to act following the nation's latest mass shooting – a massacre at a Nashville private school that killed three children and three adults.

"I have gone the full extent of my executive authority, to do on my own anything about guns," Biden said. "The Congress has to act. The majority of the American people think having assault weapons is bizarre, a crazy idea. They're against that."

Biden renewed his push for Congress to reinstate the nation's ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which expired in 2004, and to close loopholes for gun background checks after Monday's deadly shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville.

"The last time we passed an assault weapons ban, violent shootings went down," Biden said. "I can’t do anything except plead with Congress to act reasonably.”


More: 'A family's worst nightmare': Biden reacts to Nashville shooting, urges assault weapons ban

Joe Biden talks to the press on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One on March 28, 2023 in Washington, DC, for a trip to Durham, North Carolina.
Joe Biden talks to the press on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One on March 28, 2023 in Washington, DC, for a trip to Durham, North Carolina.

But a ban on assault weapons is likely to find no momentum in the Republican-led House and even faces an uphill path for passage in the Democratic-led Senate despite a series of mass shootings that has again shined a spotlight on access to AR-15s and other automatic firearms.

"We're not gonna fix it," U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., told reporters Monday. "Criminals are going to be criminals."

Burchett added: "My daddy fought in the Second World War, fought in the Pacific, fought the Japanese. He told me, buddy, if somebody wants to take you out and doesn't mind losing their life, there's not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it."

Biden was noncommittal on whether he plans to visit Nashville but said he's spoken to the city's leaders including Nashville Mayor John Cooper.

More: 'Suspect down!': Bodycam footage shows police confrontation with Nashville school shooter: Updates

Through executive order in 2021, Biden directed his administration to tighten restrictions on so-called ghost guns, or untraceable weapons, that can be constructed from parts purchased online.

Earlier this month, Biden signed an executive order directing Attorney General Merrick Garland to ensure that federally licenses firearms sellers are carrying out required background checks.

In an effort to expose "rogue" gun dealers, Biden's order, among other actions, also directed Garland to publicly release, to the fullest extent possible, ATF records that detail violations from the inspection of firearms dealers.

Last year, amid calls for gun reform after mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York, Congress approved bipartisan legislation that provided incentives for states to adopt red-flag gun laws and enhanced background checks on young buyers.

But the moves fall far short of the sweeping gun control legislation pushed by gun control advocates and Biden.

"Enough, enough, enough," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday on MSNBC. "We need Republicans in Congress to show some courage. This is what they owe these parents. This is what they owe these family members who are losing their loved ones."

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: President Biden says he's exhausted actions on guns without Congress